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France to boost agri, food exports to China

Updated: 2013-01-22 05:44
By Li Jiabao ( China Daily)

France plans to boost its exports of food and agricultural products to China, while consolidating cooperation in sectors such as nuclear power and aviation, French Minister of Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq said on Monday.

"The focus of my visit is to explore the new trade areas of agriculture and food processing after strengthening cooperation in nuclear power and aviation. We hope to boost trade in dairy and meat products, as well as wine, with China," Bricq said at a news briefing in Beijing.

Bricq started her two-day visit on Monday, following French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovicis visit earlier this month. The visits are also intended to pave the way for French President Francois Hollande's visit to China later this year.

"Today's talks with the Chinese government covered cooperation projects on A320 aircraft, and we expressed our expectation for orders of wide-bodied aircraft, including the A330, A350 and A380, to be announced during the president's visit. I know Beijing is building its second airport and we support the bid of Aeroports de Paris SA," Bricq said.

Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner was recently grounded worldwide after problems with the plane's lithium batteries were reported. The reports said the batteries leak corrosive fluids and can start fires.

At the end of 2012, the French government opened an investigation into the French nuclear industry's relations with foreign partners, including ties between EDF SA and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd, or CGNPC.

EDF has a long-term relationship with China and is building two reactors in China, but there are concerns in France about technology transfer.

Moscovici said during his visit to China that the investigation was just a "regular examination" and will not affect cooperation among EDF, CGNPC and Areva SA, another French conglomerate that is building a nuclear plant for the Chinese company.

French newspaper Le Monde said that China will account for 80 percent of orders to French nuclear power companies over the next 15 years.

"The so-called investigation, which started in January, is just the new administration's review of the French nuclear projects with its partners, and I believe that it will not affect our cooperation with China," Bricq said.

On Tuesday, Bricq is scheduled to visit the construction site of the European Pressurized Reactor, or EPR, units in Taishan, Guangdong province. The first two units will be completed by 2014.

On Jan 14, Bricq and Guillaume Garot, the French minister for agriculture and food, set up the Asian Committee to promote exports of French food products as world demand is expected to expand 25 percent by 2022 and Chinese imports will grow 10 percent annually.

"China's agricultural industry has entered a transformation period. More technology will be introduced to increase output and solve food safety concerns, and France has advanced agricultural technology," said Chen Xingdong, managing director and chief economist at BNP Paribas (China) Ltd.

In 2012, trade between China and France dropped 2 percent year-on-year to $51.02 billion, according to the General Administration of Customs.

Chinese exports to France declined 10.3 percent year-on-year to $26.9 billion, while imports from France rose 9.3 percent year-on-year to $24.12 billion. The French Ministry of Finance said that the country's trade deficit with China reached 27 billion euros ($4.29 billion) in 2011.